The Return on MentoringDecember 16, 2011
In today’s society, in which young people are consumed by social media and look up to Kim Kardashian and Kanye West as role models, it is easy to assume that youths do not want to listen to what you have to say. However, I have found this to be quite contrary to the truth.
Each summer, my peers and I host local youths on the University of Alabama, Huntsville, campus to generate interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields by conducting labs and discussion panels about attending college and the benefits of pursuing advanced degrees. The first summer I participated, there was one student who seemed disinterested. During the activities, she made jokes, refused to comment on her goals, and at one point broke out in an inappropriate dance. Once we got over the shock, my peers and I pulled her aside and advised her that her behaviors were inappropriate. I began to think, What is the point in what we are doing? Maybe students really prefer to listen to someone who has a reality show?
The following summer, the same student returned with a totally different attitude. She actively engaged in sharing her dreams. She privately revealed to me that my peers and I had impacted her life by addressing her behavior and shared that she was motivated to pursue STEM studies. I found pure joy in learning this. I realized that for some young people, celebrities and reality stars are their role models not by choice but because no one has taken the time to be a mentor to them. I share this to demonstrate that not all young people are tuning you out, so please don’t disregard the need for mentoring and educational outreach programs such as the National Girls Collaborative Project. Often youth are waiting for a mentor. Be a mentor; I promise you will see a return on your time investment.